[One of these ladies is not like the others: a photo from the exhibition of the first post-WWII Vienna “Opernball” 1956, displayed at Vienna Staatsoper, 2016.]
“To the photographer: You’ve got another ten seconds to document just about how done I am with heteronormative class rituals. Then I’ve got places to be. This rose won’t deliver itself!”
This photo is my second favorite currently on display in the Gustav-Mahler hall. I’ve dubbed it “Rosenkavalier Undercover” and while I dislike debutant meat market with a passion, this photo reminds me that I am not the only one. And look at the drapes around its display: there are clearly people who still do not find anything wrong with the event even today.
The people in the photo are not named anywhere next to it (though given that this is Vienna, you could probably ask anyone over 70 in the room and they would be able to tell you) ; most of them will likely be gone, a 60 years after the event. I don’t know if the Staatsoper, in putting together the exhibition, has tried to contact the people depicted about their consent (I hope they did).
The quiet resistance of the meringue Rosenkavalier may be my favorite part of this photo, but there are more stories at play for me, independent of whomever those people actually are or were – As a storyteller, I ask myself: Are those two young men actually there with each other? Are the four women a quartet of mothers and daughters, one overseeing with prim pride how her daughter, in appropriate submission, is passed on to a man who will always ignore her? (and why does that daughter wear a giant calamares ring on her head?! Is she actually a mermaid?) While the other mother clearly has more fun, in between a more comfortable dress and sassy grandma glasses? Is she about to ask the photographer for a dance? Who here has their best friend present, and who cares about them more than they let on? An where does our Rosenkavalier actually want to be (other than “anywhere but here, or in this dress”)?
I need a Mozart buffa on this whole layout. – Right place, but about 235 years late…